A sitz bath, which is derived from the German word "sitzen", which means "to sit", is a bathing process in warm shallow water to relieve pain or any itching in the perineum. Sitz baths can be done as part of one's personal hygiene, or it can be done as part of a treatment process for an existing medical condition.
What is a sitz bath?
A sitz bath is done by sitting in warm water for either comfort or pain relief in the anal or vaginal region caused by certain medical conditions.
Doctors would usually recommend a sitz bath if a person is suffering from hemorrhoids or anal fissures. It is also recommended in the case of women who have recently undergone a vaginal birth. Sitz baths cleanse the perineum, which is the space between the vulva or scrotum and the rectum.
Sitz baths can be done twice a week as part of your personal hygiene. It also provides relief from any itching in the genital area.
Uses of a Sitz Bath
One would not need a doctor’s permission or prescription if they want to try a sitz bath. In addition to perineum cleansing, sitz baths can help increase the blood flow to the perineal area, which promotes faster healing. The following are people who may take a sitz bath:
- Women who have recently undergone a vaginal delivery
- Individuals who have had surgery in the vulva or vaginal region
- Individuals suffering from hemorrhoids
- Individuals with prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate gland)
- Individuals with bowel movement discomfort
- Individuals who have recently undergone surgery to remove hemorrhoids
- People suffering from constipation or diarrhea
- People with anal fissures
Both adults and children can benefit from a sitz bath. When it comes to children, parents should keep a close watch during the child’s bath to avoid any accidents.
Benefits of a Sitz Bath for Women
In women, the vaginal opening, which is surrounded by the labia, lets out discharges and secretions, which are quite normal for the body. However, some discharges are due to certain health conditions. Thus, it becomes very important for women to keep their vaginal area clean since it is often prone to bacterial growth, which can lead to certain illnesses or skin damage around the vagina. At times, there are cases of bad odor due to vaginal discharges.
By using sitz baths on a regular basis, women can prevent bad vaginal odor and skin damage. If a sitz bath is used with certain medications, it can also provide relief from any bacterial growth, thereby avoiding infection.
One of the main uses of a sitz bath that is often recommended by doctors is to promote comfort after a vaginal delivery. A sitz bath after delivery helps reduce discomfort in the genital area and also speeds up the healing process. Women who have hemorrhoids, especially during pregnancy and post-delivery, can take a sitz bath to soothe any discomforts and damage.
You can also use an herbal sitz bath, which would speed up the body's natural healing process. You can add in some essential oils such as olive oil, lavender oil, and chamomile oil. Aside from essential oils, you can also add baking soda in the water.
Sitz Baths for Healing Hemorrhoids
Hemorrhoids are usually unpleasant. They are formed when the anal canal cushions become swollen. Hemorrhoids may not be very dangerous, but they often cause a lot of discomforts. Rectal bleeding is usually the first sign of hemorrhoids.
In most cases, doctors recommend a sitz bath in warm water since it provides relief from painful hemorrhoids. Pain is mostly felt while straining during bowel movements.
People are usually embarrassed while talking about their condition. However, people should not shy away from the topic and seek advice from the doctor instead. Sitz baths can be done at home with natural ingredients or any medications provided by the doctor based on the severity of your condition.
The anal canal region has multiple veins and blood vessels. These blood vessels get a lot of pressure while straining during bowel movements. Being overweight or pregnant can also cause constipation and straining leading to hemorrhoids.
Using warm water during a sitz bath causes the blood vessels to open, which soothes tight muscles and reduces the swelling. It also strengthens the pelvic floor muscles and provides relief from itchiness.
How to Take a Sitz Bath
You can take a sitz bath by using warm water. In certain medical conditions, doctors will recommend adding certain medications or additives in the warm water. You can also add table salt, vinegar, or baking soda to the warm water, which would provide more soothing effects during the bath. Avoid adding any kind of soap, shower gel, or bubble bath in the warm water.
There are two ways to take a sitz bath. You can take a sitz bath in a bathtub or use a sitz bath kit.
Taking a Sitz Bath in a Bathtub
- The first step is to clean the bathtub thoroughly by mixing two tablespoons of bleach with half a gallon of warm water. Scrub the bathtub properly, and then rinse it thoroughly to make sure that you have removed all the soap and other bathing products that have collected on the surface of the tub. Make sure that the bathtub is sterile to avoid further infections.
- Once the cleaning process is completed, fill the bathtub with warm water up to a level of 3-4 inches deep. Ensure that the water is not too hot, since it can have adverse effects and can cause burns or further worsen the existing irritation or pain. Warm water increases the blood flow to the affected area, thereby speeding the healing process. To check whether the water is too hot or warm, you can dip your finger in the tub to test the temperature.
- Before getting into the bathtub, ensure that the tub is plugged to avoid any water leakage.
- Add any substances according to your doctor's prescription or just add salt. It can also be left without additives. There is no need to add anything specific in the warm water, since water on its own would provide a soothing effect. Apart from salt, you can also add ½ cup of vinegar for vaginal infections. For treating hemorrhoids, add Epsom salt, baking soda, olive oil, and lavender oil to the warm water. This herbal solution will provide comfort to the affected area, causing a soothing effect and increased blood flow.
- Get into the bathtub and soak your perineum in the warm water for 15-20 minutes. You can bend your knees or keep your legs dangling over the sides of the tub so that they are out of the water.
- Once you are done, slowly get out of the bathtub and dry yourself with a clean towel. Do not rub the perineum, since it may cause pain or irritation.
- Rinse the bathtub properly and empty out all the water.
Taking a Sitz Bath Using a Kit
- You can purchase a plastic sitz bath kit that fits your toilet seat. Before using it, rinse the sitz bath with water thoroughly. You can use bleach for scrubbing and rinsing the kit.
- Once the cleaning process is completed, add warm water to the kit. Add salt or any medication prescribed by the doctor.
- Setup the sitz bath kit by placing the tub through the hole in the basin, which is used for circulating the solution throughout the entire session of the bath. Use the clamp to cut off the water flow through the tube. You can test the placement of the sitz bath by moving it from side to side to ensure that it doesn’t shift from its original position.
- You can pour in warm water before you sit down or once you are seated, you can use the plastic bag and the tubing to fill the tub with water. The water should be deep enough so that it covers your perineum.
- Slowly unclamp the tube, which is holding the warm solution in the bag. At the bottom of the bag, there will be a hose that will begin spraying the warm solution upwards. Make sure to adjust your seating position accordingly, so that the water is sprayed on the injured tissue or the area that you want to heal.
- Remain seated for at least 15-20 minutes.
- When finished, pat yourself dry with a clean cotton towel. Do not rub or scrub the area.
- Flush the used water and clean the sitz bath for its next use.
A plastic sitz bath is a kit that can be fitted in a standard toilet. It also contains a plastic bag, which is attached to a long tube. This tube leads to a shallow plastic basin. The sitz bath kit usually comes in with a detailed guideline on how to clean the kit.
You can follow those instructions and get the kit cleaned properly. Also, in most cases, these kits do not come in with an expiration date. However, you can replace the kit once it is worn out or if there are any cracks or weakened areas during the course of use.
Doctors usually recommend taking a sitz bath at least 3-4 times a day until the source of pain or itching is relieved. Moreover, you can get back to your normal activities after taking a sitz bath.
The Benefits of Various Types of Sitz Baths
1. Sitz baths with warm water
A sitz bath is usually taken in warm water with the temperature ranging from 95-105 degrees Fahrenheit. In this case, the water level should not be higher than your navel area. A warm water sitz bath is beneficial for the following conditions:
- Uterine cramps
- Any muscular problems
- Piles or hemorrhoids
- Pain in testicles or ovaries
- Prostate issues
2) Sitz bath with cold water
A sitz bath with cold water should only be a few inches deep and the water temperature should be not colder than 68 degrees Fahrenheit. A cold sitz bath is beneficial for the following conditions:
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Inflammation of the pelvic region or genital areas
- Excessive vaginal discharge causing bad odor and irritation
3) Sitz bath with hot and cold water
You can also alternate sitz baths using hot and cold water. You can stay in warm water for around 3-4 minutes and then switch to cold water. Be sure to end the alternating bath using cold water. A hot and cold water sitz bath is beneficial for the following conditions:
Some people prefer taking a sitz bath in ice water. However, avoid taking an ice bath for more than 60 seconds.
Risks Factors of Sitz Baths
It is very rare that a sitz bath would cause any risk to an individual. However, you should take care of any perineal infection. Although it is very unlikely to happen, if the tub or kit is not properly cleaned, an infection may develop in the wound.
If you notice signs of infection or worsening injury or irritation, then it is better to stop taking sitz baths and contact your doctor immediately. There would be cases wherein the perineum would become red and puffy due to an infection or irritation.
Sitz baths can be easily performed at home without the recommendation of a doctor. They can provide relief from various conditions if correctly performed. However, as with any condition, it best to consult a doctor if your condition worsens.